Lactose is mainly found in animal milk and dairy products. When the body can’t produce enough lactose, the enzyme that digests a form of sugar called lactose, people are known to be lactose intolerant.
Consumption of milk products will probably make you feel sick because the lactose does not get digested and remains in the intestine causing gastrointestinal problems. This can make one uncomfortable, but it is not dangerous. However, being lactose intolerant and having cow’s milk intolerance is not the same thing, though the symptoms will be more or less similar. It may be noted that lactose intolerance is caused by lack of lactose in the body, whereas cow’s milk intolerance is an allergy elicited by the immune system.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance are diarrhea, cramps and pain in the abdominal region, flatulence, indigestion, nausea and bloating – similar to the signs of normal pregnancy. But if pain, gas, bloating are observed after consuming milk or dairy products and it makes you feel better by avoiding them, then probably you’re lactose intolerant. The symptoms may appear within two hours of consuming dairy products, though it will also depend on a person’s digestion capacity. Based on the symptoms, the doctor may recommend a blood or a hydrogen breath test and confirm the same. Lactose intolerance can be genetic or at times may be due to a tiny injury in the small intestine which is responsible for producing lactose.
If you’re lactose intolerant, you are probably worried on how to get the required calcium during pregnancy? Yes, you need to avoid milk and dairy products altogether. Instead of cow’s milk, try almond, rice or soy milk. Other non dairy sources like green leafy vegetables, (we all have heard about spinach), sesame seeds, broccoli, whole grains, salmon, Indian fish called Hilsa and nuts. Also remember Vitamin D is a vital nutrient as it absorbs maximum calcium in the body, therefore eggs, fish and most important of all, maximum exposure to natural sunlight are good sources of vitamin D. It is not possible to get recommended intake of calcium per day, i.e. 1,200 mg without having milk and dairy products so pregnant women who are lactose intolerant intake calcium supplements.
There is no specified treatment for this, but certainly there are other alternatives. Cutting down on milk and milk products from your diet, keeping a track of the food you have daily, if eating out always ask about the recipe and the ingredients that go in it (any cream based gravy will have milk and milk products in it) etc are some precautions you must take while you are pregnant. Before taking any pills consult your doctor as some pills do contain lactose.
Lactose intolerance will not affect your baby at all because your body will pull out the required calcium from your bones and teeth, making sure the baby gets the required amount to grow strong and healthy. But this will have a long time effect on your body and health so make sure you get enough calcium for yourself.